Felipe Martinez to Make Final Ride Sunday

(from Santa Anita notes)
Jockey Felipe Martinez put his family before his career and announced he will make his final ride on Sunday.

"There's no other reason, other than I want to spend more time with my family," the 41-year-old native of Jalisco, Mexico, said on Wednesday. "My wife, Adriene, and our children - Marcus, Isabel, and Isaac - have a home on about an acre of ground in Great Falls, Montana, and that's where we plan to live. Right now, we have no horses there, but that could change."

Martinez rides Sam's Ace for trainer Doug O'Neill in Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park. O'Neill and Martinez's agent of four years, Alex Procel, were instrumental in elevating the rider's career.

"I think his retirement has been on his mind since August of last year," Procel said. "Felipe's wife has been in Montana for nine months and he wants to spend time there with his kids. Right now I don't plan to take another rider. I'll see what unfolds. I know I will miss Felipe because he was such a good person and so easy to work with."

Through March 28, Martinez had a career record of 462 wins, 543 seconds, 641 thirds and purse earnings of $13,374,448 from 5,617 mounts. Martinez, who earned his first graded stakes win for O'Neill in July when he guided Whilly to victory in the American Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park, said he began riding in 1987.

"There's no doubt his association with O'Neill helped him tremendously," Procel said. "He (O'Neill) really helped his (Martinez) career."

Said O'Neill: "I love Felipe like a brother. He's one of the hardest-working guys I know. So many people said he couldn't do what he's done, and he's proved them wrong. He put his family ahead of his career and there aren't many people I know who could do that, myself included."

In the hopes of sending Martinez out on a winner, O'Neill has named him on Areyoutalkintome in Sunday's Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita. Initially, Pat Valenzuela had been given the call.

"I talked to the owners, and they were very cool about it," O'Neill said. "We're going to try and shock the world and take down Surf Cat. Nothing would make it better for me than to have Felipe go out on a winner."